Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/625

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"NATURAL RELIGION"

lem before us: "Two opposite theories of the universe are in conflict. On the one side is the greatest of all affirmations, on the other the most fatal of all negations. There never yet was a controversy which was not trivial in comparison with this. It is cruel trifling to speak of compromise, it is waste of time to draw verbal distinctions." And then, after two hundred pages of verbal distinctions, many of which are really no better, a compromise is effected upon the basis of natural religion, which is also natural Christianity without its supernaturalism. But the writer has no wish to deceive either himself or his readers, and concludes, "Who will not say that a supernatural religion, supplementing a natural one, may be precious, nay, perhaps indispensable?" And indispensable he shows it to be, from his own point of view: "When the supernatural does not come in to overwhelm the natural and turn life upside down, when it is admitted that religion deals in the first instance with the known and the natural, then we may well begin to doubt whether the known and the natural can suffice for human life. No sooner do we try to think so, than pessimism raises its head. … A moral paralysis creeps upon us. … Supernatural Religion met this want by connecting Love and Righteousness with eternity. If it is shaken, how shall its place be supplied? And what would Natural Religion avail then?" We have, then, to remember that this attempt to establish a harmony between orthodoxy and the votaries of art and science, upon the minimum basis of a faith without a personal God and without miracles, is a compromise honestly offered by one who himself apparently still cherishes these beliefs. It is a fair attempt to arrive at some understanding by sinking out of sight the points upon which people differ, and by bringing into prominence their points of agreement.

As I suppose that most of my readers have either read this book or intend to do so, anything like a full account of its contents here will be unnecessary. It will not, however, be out of place to attempt a slight sketch of its general argument and conclusions. Our author begins by pointing to the divinity of nature as the common ground between Christianity and science. The real issue is not between theism and atheism, for science is in a very real sense a theology, and believers in nature have many of the feelings of Christians for their deity. Thus, we have a natural theology; it will widen into a natural religion, when the science of the relation of the universe to human ideals has grown up; and this science, upon a purely natural basis, is fast constructing itself. Defining worship as "habitual and permanent admiration," he sees nothing to fear in the gospels of art and humanity. Just as the gospel of science is an allotropic form of mediæval theology, so is the gospel of art the revival of Greek paganism under altered conditions, and the gospel of humanity that of Christianity. Each is, to some individuals, a faith in itself, because it lifts them above mere materialism, above conventionalism, above the ordi-